I once worked for someone where nothing was ever good enough. I felt like I had to prove myself over and over again no matter how long I had been in the role. It gets exhausting and it crushes your morale and drive to do better.
You shouldn’t have to live life running through fire every day to prove your worth as a person and as a leader. Here are some thoughts to help remind you that you have nothing to prove.
Judge your success by your own standards
Our society today is one of comparison. We want to be like the person living their best Instagram worthy life, our extended friends and family that live in our dream house, or even the jerk that is sitting in the job that is meant for us.
The problem with comparing yourself to others is that it will always be an unfair comparison and you’ll never be truly satisfied. Judge your success on your own standards. It doesn’t mean you stop pushing yourself for growth. It means to focus on your individual progress instead of putting it up against other people’s situations.
We talked about this more in-depth way back in PTB Episode 36: Who is your competition?
You can’t please everyone
As an early leader, I know I tried too hard to please everyone. I felt that I wasn’t the best leader unless everyone was happy. Understand that you aren’t going to please everyone. It’s impossible, because of so many variables in ethics, upbringing, lifestyle, and perspective.
Lead by what’s best for the group and have confidence in your leadership and decision-making ability. When you live your life this way, you have nothing to prove to the naysayers and doubters. When a person doesn’t care for your leadership style, accept it, and keep moving forward.
It only matters what a few people think
It’s easy to get hung up in what other people think of you. You see these scenarios play out in school, work, professional & volunteer organizations and in social circles. Like a good golden retriever, we want to please others and be liked.
At the end of the day, the most valuable relationships in your life will likely total 10 people are less. This is your innermost circle. These people matter. Outside of that, most people you meet will likely exit your circle at some point in time.
You can give too much mental space and attention to people that are inconsequential to you in the big scheme of things.
One of my favorite scenes from the Office is when Andy is destroying himself because people on the internet are trolling his youtube videos. It’s funny how much he loses control but it’s also funny because that reaction is a reality for many people.
You determine your happiness
At the end of the day, you determine your level of happiness no matter the circumstances in your life. No one can take your happiness away from you unless you allow them to.
Your definition of happiness may be very different from someone else’s. Others strive for the biggest beach house that they can’t afford and you may just want to live in a tiny house on the side of a mountain.
Chase what makes YOU happy instead of allowing others to build a narrative that you have to prove yourself towards time and time again.
You have nothing to prove to anyone but yourself, (a new job or client being the exception). Push yourself for growth and let success follow you.
I’m a big-time management guy. It’s a subject that I get a lot of questions about at Passing the Baton and when I’m meeting people in the real world. Recently the question and idea came up about the desire for time versus the desire for more personal experiences. Could the aching desire for more meaningful memories actually be disguising itself as a desire for more time?
I want more time to spend outside of work
Let’s say you are already doing well with your time and you still want more time outside of work. Evaluate your time in a given week and see how much leisure time you actually have. It’s likely higher than you think.
Use your calendar to determine your average amount of leisure time. This alone may be the wake-up call that you are spending more time doing things that have little significance.
Pull out your hobby, friends, family, education, and health maintenance time. Examine the quality of those times. Are they being utilized well or is there a lot of wasted time? How about technology’s impact on those times?
Time perception is real. How we perceive our time impacts how we spend it. If you feel like you have no time, you are likely more stressed about it and aren’t using it all efficiently. On the other hand, those that feel like they have a good grasp and control over their time get more out of the moments they create.
What you think you spend your time on and what you actually spend your time on might be more different than you realize.
I need more space
I always tell people to schedule their free time. I know it sounds weird. John shares a story years ago when he started doing this. He started scheduling daily water intake and playtime with his kids. Wouldn’t you know it, he started getting healthier and enjoyed more memories with family.
Scheduling off times and space protects it from other time-wasters and other priorities from stealing it away from you. Place memory-building activities on your calendar. It doesn’t always have to be a grand adventure; it can be as simple as a date with someone or a phone call to an old friend.
I need help being in the moment
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become much more aware of being in the moment. I no longer take the situation or time for granted anymore. I think of it as memory imprinting. I’m very aware of what’s going on around me and I’m actively building that memory as I live it out. It may sound odd, but it has certainly helped me. Here are some tips to help you with memory imprints.
Call out details in your mind as you are in the moment. What are the smells? What are you wearing? What is the weather like? What are the key things going on around you? I love doing this on film sets. There’s always a ton going on and its fun to remember all the behind-the-scenes things happening when it comes out on the big screen.
Think back and reflect on the time soon after it wraps up. This will help solidify the memory in your mind. I usually reflect back immediately after it’s over and then a couple of times the following days.
Eliminate all distractions. Another plus about the film industry is that you are not allowed to have phones on set. It forces you to be fully in the moment. That experience has taught me that there are times when I need to put up my phone. I know that I have missed memorable moments because I’ve had my face in a phone. Make sure that you are not that person.
Grow an appreciation for the moment. Realize that the moment you are in is a snapshot, never to be repeated again. (Even if it’s an ongoing event like work or Friday nights with friends) Each event is different and the circumstances of these events will change before you know it.
I need help remembering
Our minds can be a frustrating thing. You want to hold on to retain quality memories and experiences, but it’s constantly dumping that info so that it can process new ones. There are a couple of options that I would recommend to help catalog and enjoy your memories.
Daily Journal – Use it as part of your morning routine or at the end of the day. This doesn’t have to be a significant amount of writing every day, just enough to catalog the high points. A side benefit of this is that it may open up creativity and a larger desire to write and compose. It also gives you a semi-detailed look back so that you can see the progress that you’ve made.
1 Second Everday APP – I found myself frustrated that I wasn’t remembering as much as I wanted to. The creator of 1SE felt the same way and that’s why he built this app. Basically what you do is take a picture every day and then the app catalogs it and can make things like slideshows and movies out of them. You can also just browse daily pictures if you’d like.
The app forced me to be on the lookout for good moments and appreciate them more as they happened. It also helped me remember them. I’m currently looking back 7 months and I remember the details of every one of those events. I highly recommend the app to others.
The desire for more memories is often the starting point of some type of time management. Regardless of the motivation, I would encourage you to pursue it. Passing the Baton teaches online classes several times a year and I would certainly recommend Lee Cockerell’s Time Management Magic for people to read.
Managing to the exception is something you encounter on a daily basis. You see warnings and disclaimers all the time in the food industry and on the product that you buy. Who would have thought that Legos are a choking hazard and a rare steak is not fully cooked? Have you ever worked in an environment where they had some weird rule or restriction because someone at some point did something they shouldn’t have?
How does exception management happen and how can we fight it?
How it manifests
You’ll often see managing to the exception come about in one of three ways:
A) A project, product, or service is slow to implement because it’s not perfect. There is a demand to keep refining the process to meet the need of every possible scenario.
B) Anytime a leader lets something of small importance drive a decision of large importance.
C) Policies and procedures are written in anticipation or as a response to a one-off encounter or event.
What it does to your team
Managing to the exception can have several negative effects on your team.
It may make them feel like you don’t trust them.
It inevitably leads to less productivity.
It lowers the value of other policies and procedures that are truly important.
It may cause people to doubt your decision-making ability.
It can make the employee feel like they are a liability and not an asset.
Call it out
It’s important to call out exceptions when you see them so that they don’t then become engrained in a project or a policy. It’s okay to say, “I think this is the exception to the rule,” during a meeting. You’ve likely seen one of these side notes or comments ending up taking over a meeting. Have the courage to speak up and nip it in the bud so that you can continue on with things that are more important. If there is still debate on the validity of the issue, bring it offline and talk with the person about their concerns.
Ask yourself if the issue or concern is a deal-breaker or not. If it is, address it on a large scale. If not, take care of the exception and move forward.
Have a look back period
A yearly review of policies and procedures is a good practice to ensure that you are not bogging your teams down with unnecessary regulations and hurdles to efficiency. What needs to be updated? What needs to be erased? Look for things that are outdated and are holding your team back.
I typically recommend a set of policies and a set of guidelines for organizations. Policies are strict tactical pieces needed to do your business. How you handle your money, ethics, information security, and safety would all be examples of policies. Guidelines would be just that. “Here are our preferences and guardrails in this situation.” Dress code, customer issues, branding standards, and vendor management would be examples here.
Ideally, your policies should be small compared to your guidelines. Both offer a standard, with guidelines offering flexibility to suit the situation while policies are set in stone. Some companies have bloated policies because they have no guidelines.
Handle the one-off and exceptions when they occur, just don’t let it drive your business and how you approach your team.
Studies show that over a third of all meetings are unproductive. Maybe you have sat through a few yourself! Many high profile leaders and CEOs take meetings very seriously to keep the meeting times and the company as efficient as possible.
Meetings don’t have to be a huge time suck and resource waster for you or your team.
Stay on track
Have you ever become frustrated because you found the meeting going off the rails because the room is talking about everything but the items related to the reason for the meeting? It can happen easily enough and before you know it either your meeting is running over or you didn’t accomplish the goal and you have to meet again.
My friends in the talent development industry often deploy a “parking lot” strategy to keep meetings focused. They will bring a giant sticky pad of paper upfront and if something comes up that begins to bring them off-topic, they will note it in the parking lot and have someone follow-up on it after the meeting. I’ve seen meetings where the parking lot is filled and others where it’s empty because no one wants their idea up there.
Agendas with times for each person are another great tool as long as everyone agrees to keep to it. Put an expectation and plan in place to keep your team focused on the reason for being in the meeting.
Respect the time and try to beat it
If you use an agenda with time allotments, make sure that you stick to it and do your best to beat it. I’ve been in meetings where a financial update was always given a standard 10 minutes. The person could have updated the team in 2 minutes, but always used 10 minutes because that’s what they had.
If you reach the end of your time, table the rest for next time, or follow-up in a post-meeting communication. If the issue is of top importance for the meeting, ask if someone can give up some of their time so you can finish. Just don’t make it a habit to do so.
How many slides do you need?
Many people use slides because it helps them keep on track and it enhances the communication to the team. Just as many people use slides as a crutch by simply reading each slide or use it as a filler for their allotted time.
Check yourself on the reasons for your slides and the value that they add to the group. If you are just simply reading slides, try to do your portion once without them. It will push you in your presentation skills and will likely lower your time. Help for good powerpoint presentations is out there if you search for it. The Atlanta Chapter of ATD usually offers a seminar of creative Powerpoint a couple of times a year and it’s one of our most popular events.
Do you even need the meeting?
Sometimes we caught get up in meetings just for the sake of meetings. For some leaders, it gives them a sense of connection and work accomplishment. Go through your calendar and determine if the meeting is actually warranted. Perhaps two can be combined into one. Maybe you can meet less often. There are likely hidden efficiencies in your meeting calendar.
Include only those that are truly needed
As you look at your calendar of meetings, perhaps you see ones that do need to happen but don’t really require that you attend. Work with the leader of the meeting to excuse yourself and ask for meeting notes if needed. Reverse the idea for the meetings that you lead. Look at the room and determine who really needs to be there.
One of the most frustrating things for a good employee to deal with is sitting through meetings that are unnecessary for them to be in. It’s a waste of their time and your resources.
Keep your meetings focused and as short as possible. Determine the right people in the room and free people up to do their jobs outside of the meeting space.
I know why we’re here. A rescue op, save the dinosaurs from an island that’s about to explode. What could go wrong? -Owen (Chris Pratt)
Jurassic World is one of the highest grossest movies ever made and for good reason. It’s got a relatable hero, action, drama and of course dinosaurs. Through two movies (and an upcoming third), we see Owen and the gang navigate all sorts of dangers while strengthening the relationships with each other. There are a few leadership lessons that we can learn from a dinosaur trainer.
Calm under pressure
Owen is certainly a leader that remains calm under pressure. You see this at the beginning of the first movie as he is training the velociraptors and then continue to see it play out over the next two movies. In several scenes, Owen stays calm under chaos and lives as a result, while those around him that can’t handle the pressure and don’t make it out alive.
Being level-headed in tough situations will serve you well. Understand where your strengths and weaknesses are in regards to your reaction in challenging situations. For me, it’s easy to remain calm in crisis situations while I have to more mindful while dealing with people who are generally angry and lash out at others.
Remember that being a calm person doesn’t mean you have to be a bump on a log with no personality. Owen is witty, sarcastic and funny. Be yourself and keep calm when the pressure mounts.
People who fail to learn from the past often repeat it
The underlying principle in Jurassic World is people repeat their failures when they don’t learn from them. Strip away some of the fluff and Jurrasic World is exactly like the original Jurassic Park. Nice park, everything looks great, evil person tries to steal Dinosaur IP, Dinos get loose, run for your life.
Failure is needed for you to grow as a person and for your company to grow. It shows that you are trying new things and continuing to push forward in your journey of growth. We sometimes have a tendency to be ashamed of those failures and quickly try to sweep them under the rug and move on.
Take time to reflect on the whys and reasons behind the failure. It will teach you valuable lessons and help you move forward in a healthy way.
Don’t celebrate too early
A classic scene in all of the Jurassic movies is the early celebration. It’s like the helicopter pilot in Jurrasic World who thinks he made it out only to be eaten by a giant dinosaur in the end. Make sure that you celebrate your wins with your team and yourself, just not too early. It’s cost athletes their win, companies their lead, and embarrassment for others.
Make sure it’s a done deal and then party.
Leaders have to put themselves between danger and their team.
Videos that show people putting themselves in harm’s way to save or help someone else regularly go viral on the internet. Almost always, it’s a regular person and complete stranger to the one that needs assistance. We love a good hero that sacrifices their safety for those of others.
Owen puts himself between his friends and danger constantly in the new Jurassic World movies. His concern is obviously higher for those he cares about above himself. What monsters out there have you have thrown yourself in front of to protect your friends, family, and co-workers? Maybe it’s not a killer dinosaur, but perhaps it was a bully, a safety issue or a tough conversation in a meeting. I often see my role as a leader as a shield to keep as much of the garbage from hitting my team as possible. A good leader does what needs to be done to protect their team.
Live your life like a good dinosaur trainer. Be brave, level headed, and learn from your mistakes. Step up to help others and celebrate after you’ve accomplished your goal.
There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, to see if we could become something more. -Nick Fury
The Avengers have fully taken over the world. Their universe in TV and film has spanned over 10 years and amassed billions in ticket sales alone. It seems we can’t enough of our beloved heroes. Underneath all the space travel, intergalactic wars and Avenger-level threats lie several leadership lessons we can take away and apply in the real world.
Ordinary people, extraordinary powers
If you look at the Avengers, most of them are ordinary people who came across extraordinary power along their journey. It’s the reason why we relate to these characters so well.
Spider-man: High school kid bit by a spider.
Captain America: Underweight Army soldier injected with super serum.
Hulk: Scientist covered in gamma radiation.
Star-Lord: Regular guy who grew up in space.
Ant-Man: Nerdy ex-con who uses a shrinking suit.
Captain Marvel, Black Widow, War Machine, Winter Soldier: Military personnel.
Black Panther: Leader of his country Wakanda.
Sure the suits and accessories are cool, but it’s their character that gives them true power. They are inspiring, brave and bold all the while carrying the human flaws that we have. Let your character be your superpower. Be bold as you help others achieve success. Be brave in those though moments of decision making and leadership moments. Be humble as you lead others.
Continual learners and leaders of development
Every character that has been around the Marvel Universe for a while now has shown some type of character and personal development. Perhaps the greatest of those is Tony Stark.
Tony is the first character from the universe that we meet. He’s incredibly cocky, naive to the collateral damage he creates and can’t hold down a meaningful relationship. Over 10 years, you see Tony become a true hero both inside and outside of the suit. He’s grown to be a caring man, understands the values of relationships, and is certainly sacrificial. Ironman didn’t stop growing as a person once he had the suit, although he could have.
He is a great reminder for us to continue on in our own journey. Maybe you are building the next great thing. Perhaps you just got that job you always wanted. Don’t stop there. Keep growing and investing in yourself.
Even the greatest heroes fail
Marvel movies are filled with our favorite heroes failing. From Captain America failing to bring Bucky back to the good side to the whole team’s failure to save the universe in Infinity War. If you think about Thor, he fails about as much as he succeeds.
Some stay down longer after a defeat than others, but they all bounce back and face their failures head-on. They learn lessons from their experience and use that to help them come back stronger than ever.
It’s ok to fail. As a leader, you need some level of failure in your life. It keeps you grounded and shows that you are trying new things. Don’t let those lessons destroy you. Learn what you can, sit on the sidelines for a minute to regain yourself and jump back into the action.
You cant hold onto it forever
Several of the original Avengers have come, and are continuing to, realize that you can’t hold on to your spot forever, no matter how much you enjoy doing it. They built in their own succession plans in friends, family, and colleagues. Yes, the Avengers know the value of passing the baton.
Plan your time in leadership and life like it is short. In all likelihood, it’s already shorter than you think it is. Grow the next generation to take on the legacy that you have built.
Learn these lessons and assemble a great leadership reputation.